What does the resurrection mean to you?
For me, the resurrection is a promise of everlasting life after death because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for me. Kurt Johnson beautifully shared what resurrection means to him, and I wanted to share Kurt’s thoughts with you.
Kurt Johnson: What the Resurrection Means
THE STORY OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS
Several months before His death, Jesus told His disciples that He would die and be resurrected. In Matthew we read, “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”
As the literal Son of God in the flesh, Jesus inherited power over death. He said of Himself: “… I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”
Jesus’s power over His own death was apparent by the way He died on the cross. Death by crucifixion typically was not sudden, rather it was a slow, drawn-out process of exhaustion. However, when Jesus’ suffering on the cross was complete, He cried with a loud triumphant voice, saying: “It is finished. Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Then He bowed His head and voluntarily gave up the ghost. A roman commander along with others who most surely had witnessed many deaths by crucifixion noted the unique passing of Christ and declared, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
After Jesus died on the cross, a rich man from Arimathaea named Joseph wrapped the body of Jesus in clean linen and laid it in a tomb, “and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.”
The day after Christ’s death, the chief priests and Pharisees approached Pilate and told him that Jesus had foretold of His own resurrection on the third day. They asked Pilate to guard the sepulchre so that the disciples of Jesus wouldn’t take His body away and claim that He had risen from the dead. In Matthew we read, “Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.”
Early, on the morning of the third day, while it was still dark, the earth quaked, and an angel rolled back the stone from the opening of the tomb. The Roman guards fell to the earth with fright and departed. Soon after “[Mary Magdalene and other women] who had bought sweet spices that they might come and anoint Him” walked to the garden tomb. “And… very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? But when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away. And entering into the sepulchre, they found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass as they were much perplexed, [the angel said], Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!”
The women returned to tell the other disciples, and two of them ran to the sepulcher to see the empty tomb for themselves. The book of John accounts that, “for as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.”
After those disciples left, Mary Magdalene was at the sepulchre weeping, when the resurrected Lord appeared to her and asked, “Woman, why weepest thou?” She answered, “because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” Then Jesus, calling her by name, simply said, “Mary.” And she looked at him and recognized Him as Jesus, and said, “Master.”
OTHER ACCOUNTS OF THE RESURRECTED LORD
In addition to Mary’s experience, there are many other accounts recorded in scripture of the Resurrected Lord appearing to a number of people.
Jesus showed Himself to the other women who “came and held him by the feet, and worshiped him.” When these righteous women told of their amazing experiences of the empty tomb, angels, and the resurrected Christ to the disciples, they “seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.”
Later that day Jesus appeared to Cleopas and another disciple who were walking along the road to Emmaus. When they returned to Jerusalem that evening, they also told the disciples who were assembled together, “The Lord is Risen indeed.” They also mentioned that Peter had seen the Lord. Then, “Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” It appears that even after seeing and touching the resurrected Lord, the apostles still could hardly believe what they were witnessing. So Jesus continued, “Have ye here any meat?” The disciples gave him some fish and other food which he took and ate before them.
A week later he appeared again to his disciples who were gathered together, this time appearing for the first time to Thomas who was able to touch the wounds of the crucifixion and know that it was the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is another account in the New Testament of the resurrected Lord appearing to seven of the apostles at the Sea of Galilea. The apostles had been fishing throughout the night in the Sea of Galilea, without catching any fish, and as dawn approached and they neared the shore, a man on land called to them and asked if they had any meat. They replied, “no”. He called to them again saying, “cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.” Then John said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” Peter hastily jumped out of the boat into the sea towards Jesus as the others rowed to shore pulling the overloaded net full of fish. Onshore, they dined together and talked.
It was interesting to me to find another account that is recorded in Matthew of the 11 apostles meeting with Jesus at an appointed place on a mountain. There He told them, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”
In Acts, we read that the Lord visited His disciples off and on for 40 days after His death.
The Book of Mormon accounts that the resurrected Lord appeared to the Nephites who were gathered around the temple in the land Bountiful. “And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying, ‘Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.’ Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth.”
And in modern times, the resurrected Lord appeared to Joseph Smith.
WHAT THE RESURRECTION MEANS FOR US
All these accounts in the scriptures testify that Jesus Christ lives. He who after having suffered all, laid His mortal body down and took it up again. His spirit was reunited with His body, becoming an immortal, glorified being of flesh and bones.
The apostle Paul taught, “For in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” This means that because of the Fall of Adam, all of us are mortal, and thus subject to physical pain, sickness, growing old, and death, but these effects of the Fall are overcome through the power of Christ’s resurrection, as He “glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands.”
It’s important to remember that in God’s plan for us that there are stages of physical progression in becoming more like Him. Coming to earth to receive a mortal body is just one step in that progression. Our bodies are not the final product yet. This is why it was so important for our Redeemer to help us overcome physical death. Without the resurrection, our eternal progression would be halted when we die. We read in the Book of Mormon, “For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God… to rise no more.” “For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection.”
Physical death is an important step in our eternal progression but isn’t easy on those that die or those that are left behind. In the Doctrine and Covenants, we read that the righteous dead, who were in a state of “peace” as they anticipated the Resurrection, still, “had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.”
WHAT THE RESURRECTION MEANS FOR ME
Those who are left behind by their deceased, experience an emotional loss, and feel the pain of being separated from their loved one. I experienced this when I was 10 years old and went through the passing of my dad, who died of cancer. I remember watching as my dad who at the time was younger than I am now, and who was once outgoing, energetic, charismatic, and full of life, suffered through his bout with cancer and treatments. I remember that night when my grandma came down the stairs from my parent’s room to announce, “Your daddy’s gone.” I remember the next morning, waking up and feeling the weight and finality of his passing, and crawling into the bottom of my bedroom closet alone and crying to myself. I remember how uncomfortable I felt to see his lifeless body in the casket at the funeral. I remember having a difficult time talking about him or hearing others talk about him for years after his death, because of the pain that would resurface from thinking about him.
My heart goes out to all the widows who I imagine think of their eternal companions often and miss them—those widows who no longer have the support and companionship of their soul mates. There are those who have lost children, those who have experienced miscarriages. Some have lost a sibling, grandparent, or others they love. Even though these people live with emotional pain and loss from the death of someone they were close to, the knowledge of our Father in Heaven’s plan for His children and knowing that Jesus fulfilled His mission here on earth offers hope to all that the emotional wounds, or the pain we experience from being separated from those that pass on, can one day be healed.
Listen to the words of this hymn. “I know that my Redeemer lives. What comfort this sweet sentence gives. He lives to silence all my fears. He lives to wipe away my tears. He lives to calm my troubled heart. I know that my Redeemer lives.” Jesus heals our broken hearts. The sting of death is swallowed up in Christ, as his resurrection makes it possible for us to be reunited with loved ones for eternity who we are separated from at this time.
My former Brigham Young University construction management professor, Jay Newitt, was asked by the Church to help oversee the Provo City Center Temple project after the Provo Tabernacle fire. When the project was completed, he did some firesides, showing slides of the historic tabernacle building after much of the interior and roof had burned to the ground the night of December 17, 2010, and explained the process of how it was rebuilt into a beautiful temple. At the end of his fireside, he again showed a picture of the charred Tabernacle after the fire, in complete ruin. As we looked at that picture, He said at one point or another in each of our lives, we may find ourselves in a place where we feel like our life is in shambles, ashes, in complete ruin- just like that picture of the Tabernacle ravaged by the fire. But that through the power of Christ, he can restore us, and turn our situation into something even more beautiful than what it was before. He quoted the scripture in Isaiah, that says, “He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted… to comfort those that mourn… to give unto them beauty for ashes.” Let the Provo City Center Temple be a symbol and a reminder of the resurrection.
Another way the resurrection impacts us is how it takes away the physical infirmities we suffer from in this life due to the Fall of Adam. I think of my niece Brooke who suffers from Rhett syndrome or my sister Natalie who has lived with type 1 diabetes since she was a baby. I know many suffer from some type of physical ailment. How meaningful is the knowledge of the resurrection that: (2 Ne. 25:13) “[Christ] shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings.” That through the power of Jesus Christ and the resurrection, they won’t have to suffer anymore from temporal frailties. Gospel Doctrine teaches, “Scars, wounds, deformities, defects, or infirmities will be removed in their course, in their proper time, according to the merciful providence of God.” As resurrected beings, they will be incorruptible, never growing old or suffering from sickness again.
Now I may jokingly say I look forward to the resurrection because not even a hair of my bald head will be lost. But that phrase means much more than just getting my luscious locks of beautiful blond hair back. When Jesus says, “the very hairs of your head are all numbered” he means that he knows when even one tiny hair falls from your head, which to me also means that He surely knows all the other physical infirmities of all sorts we face in this life. He lives to take away our aches, pains, physical disabilities, diseases, and discomforts of every kind. He has the ability, power, and desire to do so through the power of the resurrection. That is a sign of His perfect love- that in loving restitution, even when our bodies die and decay in the earth, they will one day be restored to us in glory, in that day of the resurrection. What a comforting and amazing promise!
The Bible Dictionary says, “To obtain a resurrection with a celestial, exalted body is the center point of hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is the most glorious of all messages to mankind.” I hope you’ll also remember the great gift of the resurrection- given to all.